Greetings from your friendly neighborhood Autarch!
Admit it. The one thing you despise about GW/Citadel is the (over)price. And unless you are stinkin' rich, you don't mind finding cheaper alternatives to your paint and modeling gear and materials.
Here are some tips that you might find useful:
1. Modeling and painting surface. Next time you swing by your local dollar store, look through the kitchen ware. Somewhere amid the spatulas you'll probably find a little hard plastic cutting board. The cutting board is an obvious surface to place your sprues for cutting and sniping. It's also a steady surface where you can place your pieces for gluing. And, I like to flip mine over for a secure, waterproof painting surface. The cutting board is hardy, resistance to whatever you do on it, small and portable, and cheap.
2. Paint palette. I've seen people use their thumbnails and/or a fancy professional paint palette for mixing and thinning paints. I don't like either of those so... broken tile. My wife and I built our house about 10 years ago, and for some reason I stuck back a box of tiles used in our kitchen. When I got serious about miniature painting, I happened to think about this box of tile and pulled out a broken piece. It works great. Ceramic tile is obviously waterproof, thick, and resilient and heavy for a table top (so it won't move on you and splatter paint on your dining room table). A five by five inch piece should give you a great surface for your colors. Check your garage or dump or wherever a broken tile might lie, and you have a practically free 'expert' palette.
3. Water container. Sometimes you need just a little water for mixing into your paints, other times you need a lot for washing out brushes. Whatever the need, a plastic drinking cup, cut to size, should be all you need. My go-to container is a red plastic Solo-brand drinking cup, sliced around the base about a half inch up.
4. Glue. I don't have any Citadel glue for comparison on price or quality, but my 40k friends and I have much success with Loctite's SuperGlue Control Gel. Get the Gel. It cures what ails you.
5. Paints. I know this is a touchy subject for some people, and I too use the GW paints for the minis, but when it comes to bases, scenes, terrain, etc, the cheap craft store acrylic paint is the same stuff. You get 5 times the black and white and grey paint in easy to use tubes for the price of a little thumb-sized cup of the GW stuff. The ash wasteland terrain you've been dying to make could be yours for pennies on the GW dollar.
6. Spare parts containers. Tupperware... seems simple enough, but really I'm not sure everyone has thought to just pull out some of the old well-worn plasticware out of the cabinet for holding the little bits. And tupperware now comes in all sizes and shapes imaginable. And Gladeware makes a very cheap disposable version for snacks and sandwiches and ketchup... And if you want to go even cheaper? Blister packs! The packaging used to sell the stuff is also just fine for storing it as well. I know my Dark Reaper purchase came with a nice multi-bubbled plastic container that snaps back together.
7. Terrain building material. A Cardboard box can do wonders. I am infinitely amazed at how many types of terrain, whether ruins or natural scenes can be built out of a shipping box. So far, I've been able to make any type of terrain my imagination can muster. Granted, I might be a little more 'crafty' than the average Warhammer Gamer, but I think you'll be pleased with the cheap alternative building material of good ol' cardboard.
8. Static grass, etc. I don't know about you, but one of the most overpriced things in the Citadel section of the hobby store is the little tub of static grass. And don't get me started on the eight dollar tub of sand. SAND! Sand is, well, sand! If you have
to buy it, look at the toy department for a bag of child's play sand. Same stuff, larger quantity, much cheaper. Anyway, back to static grass. I was meandering through Hobby Lobby (our premier craft store) with my 4 year old son. He loves trains, so I took him to the model train section. We were only looking, mind you, since the model sets are 200 dollars or more a piece. And, low and behold, the same trees, static grass, sand, gravel, rock-face molds, even spray paint that GW sells was much cheaper and in larger quantities. 4 times the static grass for 3 dollars more I think is a great deal. And quality? Do you know how obsessed the model train people are? If it's good enough for them...
If you were able to take just one tip from this and make it work for you, or even gained a little inspiration for your own cheaper alternative from this, I've done my job. Hope you liked it.